Formanta repair and upgrade

Historical background:
Formanta was originally made at Borisov, USSR in the late 70's and during the 80's. The producion even continued into the early 90's (after USSR desintegrated) but stopped as soon as new Russian guitar makers ("Rustone", "Shamray" and similar) entered the scene. Although '90-s Russian guitars were also prelly low quality instruments they were much more playable than any USSR-made guitar. The latest Formantas date back to 1992.

Original Formanta
Another Formanta repair
"Upgraded" Formanta

Check out the original
Formanta manual!

Here's how it all began: a grungy, non-functional Formanta "corpse."

That bright yellow piece of plastic masquerading as a bridge was so hilarious, and those metallic magenta-colored plastic plates were glued onto the body. Nothing worked.

The headstock:
Every time. Well it happens almost every time. Whenever I start to do a minor little repair job on a cheesy Soviet guitar -- a job that would take all of 10 minutes on any ordinary guitar -- I end up opening a can of Soviet worms. In the case of the Formanta neck, I was going to put a new set of tuners on it to replace the POS tuners that were on it when it arrived. Simple, right? Wrong. Have a look at what I found when I removed the crappy old tuners.

A careful count revealed a total of 42 screw holes and/or divots in the back of the peghead. Oy. So, before I could install the new tuners, it was time to do a little Soviet acupuncture, and a shitload of drop-filling.

Did I say a shitload of drop filling? I meant a SHITLOAD of drop filling. We're talking about a half-bottle of black cyanoacrylate here!

It's doing much better now.

Typical, just typical. What would usually be a 10-minute job on any other guitar turns into a week-long job on a Soviet rig, mostly because I almost always have to un-do 20 worth of years of amateur make-do-and-mend "repairs."

This was the first thing I tried, and I just couldn't stand it. That red-to-black sunburst was driving me crazy. So I had to come up with something that was appropriately cheesy-cool, but in such a way that whatever I did wouldn't compromise the originality of the neck and/or body.

The body
Batareja can mean either "battery" or "radiator," in Russian. Disregarding my extremely limited Russian vocabulary, I have come up with a bonehead-simple solution to the problem of trying to work with the ugly red-to-black sunburst finish on the Formanta body.

I was sitting here looking at some pictures of the Formanta and thought: "Those goofy pickguards practically cover the entire face of the guitar." Somewhere in the back of my brain a little light went on. Imagine, if your stomach can stand it, a mutant crossbreeding of a Soviet Formanta and a Godin Radiator guitar.

The results look something like THIS.

It's a sheet of .080" thick clear acrylic, cut to allow a 1 cm border around the body's perimeter and laminated with some green Glass Glitter ... revealing only the black outline and covering over that hideous sunburst. It mounts to the body using screws that fit into the holes for the original pickguards, the bridge inserts, and the trem unit screws. If I want to stick the coverplate down more I can use some low-tack double-stick tape. Now I can use pretty much any pickup and control layout I want, and not compromise the originality of the body in any way.

NO extra holes in the body
NO irreversible refinishing
NO problems coordinating body & pickguard colors

Not bad for a compromise solution, eh?

[non-final version with red pickups' inserts]

The neck and middle pickups are original, but the bridge pickup is a P-90 in Formanta's clothing. Three on/off switches for the pickups, a master volume, a push-pull tone pot that activates the overdrive unit when pulled up, and the 5-position rotary control for the overdrive unit itself. That would eliminate the two knobs and the switch on the bass panel of the original pickguard (which get in the way of picking), and add one knob to the controls on the treble side. Three knobs and three switches ... that's all.

The whole idea of the oversized pickguard was twofold: to avoid making any irreversible changes to the original body (e.g., the horrors of unnecessary refinishing), and to cover over that hideous red-to-black sunburst finish. At least it's covered on the top. The back of the body remains unchanged. Shrink-wrapping the body in pearloid or sparkle material might look interesting, but it would totally ruin its originality. The way I've done it, it would be possible for someone to put the guitar back into 100% original condition fairly easily if they wanted to, and not have to plug a bunch of extra holes or scrub off a non-original finish. It's the best of both worlds: the appearance of a cheesy sparkly guitar but maintaining perfect originality.

Since the original logo had long since been obliterated by the time I got this guitar, I'm making one that's a bit larger. The version below is printed on ordinary paper and taped on the peghead, but the final version will be printed on decal paper and stuck on properly. If someone wanted to remove it in the future, it would peel off easily.

The bass side of the pickguard have an enlarged "photo negative" version of the original Formanta logo, printed on clear decal paper. It's about 15 cm long.

If that isn't cheesy I don't know what is.

This wonderfull article is written by Jamie Chivers -

Guitartech Jamie Chivers,
Over 30 years of quality repair experience
Kettle Falls, WA
Monday - Friday
10am - 6pm
Set Up * Wiring * Refrets * Customizing

Oversized Formanta logo credits: Will Gibson

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